I thought Russia looked fantastic against Czech Republic, most of the time against Poland and for the first half against Greece. Much of their football has been the best I have seen other than Spain and Germany, and I expected them to be a shoe in for the Semi's. 2 things I think have undone them, complacency following their spanking of the Czechs, and playing Kerzhakov, who couldn't hit a bulls arse with a banjo, instead of Pavlyuchenko. Against the Czechs in particular they looked wonderfuly fluid, I am gutted that the eye sores that are Greece have taken their spot in the knock out rounds, so at least one game will be an utter bore.
The Czechs are also due some credit. They've learned from that 4-1 hammering, have played far more sensibly in the following games, even making light of Rosicky's absence against the Poles. Selassie and Jiracek are emerging as two of the players of the tournament.
I thought Russia got lucky against the Czech's. Sure, in the second half they bossed it, but in the first half it was all Czech. Russia has two counter attacks and scored from both. It ripped that heart out of the Czech's, but Russia could have easily been 3 down inside the first 20 minutes. Maybe if events had rolled that way, they would have escaped the group! Credit to Greece for doing the same back to Russia
An interesting piece that highlights all the main issues.
The age factor is a big one, with few real stand-out young Russian players coming through. Dzagoev is the obvious one, but soemtimes he seems to disappear from games or get muscled off the ball too easily.
As the Russian league becomes more international, there are fewer young Russian players getting a look-in at the big clubs. A few years ago Arshavin, Kerzhakov, Malfeev, Denisov and Bystrov (also a Russian international) all cut their teeth at Zenit when far from the finished product - how many of these players as youngsters would make the side regularly now? One of them, I think. The rest would be on loan at Kuban' or Spartak Nalchik.
There can, I don't think, be any excuse for how knackered the players seemed in the second half against Poland and Greece. It reminded me of watching an old Brazil side where they slowed the pace right down then produced a killer pass or bit of skill - though of course Russia didn't do the latter.
It seems Russia will be appointing a Russian manager as Advocaat's replacement in the near future: Valery Gazzaev or Gadzhi Gadzhiev, perhaps. As well as being good, experienced coaches, either of these will be able to produce a motivating Russian-language half-time team talk with the side 1-0 down in a crucial game...
Easy for me to say with hindsight, but Vladimir Bystrov or Aleksandr Samedov would have added pace when the sides looked tired in the second half v Greece and Poland. Biggest names that were missing were Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Vasiliy Berezutskiy - again it's easy with hindsight, but the less experienced players taken in their place seemed not to be trusted by Advocaat to even make appearances as a sub.